A Monster Calls – Film Review


(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the film A Monster Calls)

Firstly, if you haven’t already seen this film, be warned, it is very emotional! The acting is amazing and you feel as though you are in the film yourself, living the hard times right alongside Conor and feeling all the up and down emotions with him.

The film uses a lot of close-ups in contrast with exposition shots which are effective in showing the important emotional side to the film. Conor, throughout the course of the film, feels a mix of emotions. sorrow, grief, anger, hatred, and joy at brief points as he goes through his Mother’s sickness and death whilst dealing with his own troubles with family and school along the way, all the time trying to keep a brave face on for the sake of his Mother and secretly being weighed down by the guilt of his wish for it all to be over.

The only flaws I found with the film were that some relationships were not explored in as much depth as they should, or could have been. In particular his relationship with his Father was not shown enough in my opinion, though this may have been to highlight the growing relationship with his grandmother who, initially, he was opposed to. Also, I had expected a friendship or truce of a sort to emerge between Conor and the boy who bullied him towards the end of the film though this, again, did not happen.

The story was one that’s not normally explored. When a film or story is about someone working their way through the grief at a 2413close death, often it starts as the person dies or very close to that point, mostly focusing on their recovery. Whereas A Monster Calls was all about Conor’s journey during his mothers illness as he was forced to accept the reality and face the truth and reveal his secrets in order to find his own peace with the situation.

One of the things about the film that most appealed to me was the inclusion of art. When Conor finds out his Mum wanted to go to art college he is clearly surprised and, after her death finds another connection to her through her artwork which lives on, surprised to find they had even drawn similar things – discovering his Mum had also met the monster during her own childhood. His mum tells him, on an old home movie, that “the life is in the eyes”, encouraging him to bring his art to life and add emotion and depth to it, teaching him that art is a medium to express yourself rather than just to be creative.

Overall, the film was excellent, really connecting with you and drawing you into their world.

Images were found from: http://www.rendyreviews.com/movies//a-monster-calls-review , https://showfilmfirstblog.com/2016/09/12/felicity-jones-admits-she-had-to-avoid-hitting-the-bottle-during-filming-of-a-monster-calls/ )


Timeline – How the War Affected Manga

11th Century – Toba Sojo, a painter-priest who created animal scroll paintings which, though without word balloons or sound effects, showed a progression of events. Scroll was unrolled right to left and tradition of reading manga right to left has continued.

18th Century – “yellow cover books” (aka Kibyoshi) satirized Japanese political figures and were popular when not banned.

1853 – Commodore Perry opened up Japan to the West in 1853. An influx of foreigners followed along with introduction of European and American-style comics.

1857 – Charles Wirgman, British Journalist, published “The Japan Punch”, a magazine designed to be similar to a popular British humour publication.

Both magazines were intended for non-Japanese people living in Japan, but the humour and art in the magazines caught attention of native Japanese readers and artists. The style (known as Ponchi-e / punch-style pictures) began appearing in Japanese work as they were inspired by the Western-style comics. Evolution began towards the modern manga style that is a mix of east-west.

1887 – George Bigot, a french art teacher, started a magazine called Toba-e.

19th Century – Katsushika Hokusai, artist and printmaker. Made iconic woodblock prints. Also first artist to use the term “manga” which, along with “playful sketches” is how he described his humorous artwork. The humorous sketches he made were initially intended for his students to copy but instead ended up distrubuted through Japan, known as the Hokusai Manga.

20th Century – Rakuten Kitazawa embraced East-West style and created popular comics, including Tagosaku to Mokube no Tokyo Kenbutsu (Tagosaku and Mokube’s sightseeing in Tokyo), inspired by The Yellow Kid (Richard Felton Outcault) and The Katzenjammer Kids (Rudolph Dirks)

1905 – Rakuten Kitazawa founded magazine that showcased Japanese cartoonists (Tokyo Puck).

Kitazawa is considered the founding father of modern manga. Another early pioneer is Ippei Okamoto (creator of Hito no Issho / A life of a man). He was also the founder of Nippon Mangakai, which was the first Japanese cartoonist society. These artists and many others in this period used the excitement and anxiety the Japanese people felt as their nation left behind feudal days to become a modern industrial society in their artwork.

1915 – Shonen Club magazine for boys inspired by Western comics.

1923 – Shojo Club magazine for girls inspired by Western comics.

1930’s – Before 1930’s these magazines included illustrated stories, photo features and light-hearted fun intended for young readers. By 1930’s, reflecting the coming war, the same magazines promoted heroic tales of Japanese soldiers, showing it’s characters holding guns and getting ready for battle. Popular manga characters, e.g. Suiho Tagawa’s Norakuro / Black Stray (a dog) was also seen taking arms in order to instill value of sacrifice on home front and valor on the battlefield to very young readers. The term “Ganbatte” translating to “do your best” was considered a ‘rallying cry’ for manga created during the period to reflect the people of Japan preparing for the war ahead.

1937 – Cartoonists were required to join a government-supported trade organisation “Shin Nippon Mangaka Kyokai” / “The New Cartoonists Association of Japan” in order to be published in Manga Magazine—the only comics magazine to continue regular publication despite wartime paper shortages. Mangaka not fighting, working or banned from creating their manga, drew art that followed governmental guidelines. During this time the manga was focused on propaganda, making light of the situation and demonizing the enemy / glorifying bravery on the battlefield. Manga, with the ability to transcend language / cultural barriers was considered a perfect medium for propaganda. One artist, Ryuichi Yokoyama, creator of Fuku-Chan / Little Fuku, was sent to war zone specifically to create comics in the service of the Japanese military.

Manga also featured in the war, partially due to Taro Yashima, an artist who left Japan to resettle in America, creating the comic Unganaizo / The Unlucky Soldier which was a story about a peasent soldier who died in the service of corrupt leaders. The comic could often be found on the corpses of Japanese soldiers in the battlefield which seemed to show how the book could affect the spirit of those that read it.

Post 1945 – After the war most restrictions on art were lifted, freeing manga artists to tell a variety of stories rather than just propaganda based. During this time a pioneering female mangaka, Machiko Hasegawa, made her appearance in a male-dominated field with the creation of Sazae-San, a humorous four-panel comic strip about family life. Shortages / economic trouble after the war meant toys / comics became a luxury many children could not afford. Manga remained affordable and accessible due to Kami-Shibai / Paper plays, which were a portable picture theatre brought by travelling storytellers who’d bring traditional sweets to sell and narrate stories based on images they drew on cardboard. Many big manga artists made their debut as Kami-Shibai illustrators. This came to an end with the introduction of television in the 1950’s.

1948 – 1950 – With prices rising hardback manga became too expensive for most readers. Due to this came the invention of a low-cost alternative called Akabon / Red Books. These used red ink to add tone to black and white printing, were cheap to print and pocket sized, costing 10-50 yen, sold in lots of places / small shops which made them easily accessible. They also gave several struggling artists an opportunity, one of whom was Osamu Tezuka, a big figure in the manga world.

Research Task 10 – John Heartfield and the political image

John Heartfield, born 1891, died 1968.

He invented a new language, a pictorial language

Cross-matched icons to create new meanings.

He was the first to realise photo-montage could become a powerful political weapon.

Photo-montage was a product of zygosis, bringing together mass media, art and social struggle to form powerful political images. His methods have since been shifted for advertising and commercial purposes.

In WWI, Heartfield pretended to be insane in order to avoid the war, during this time he produced his first photo-montages in the form of redesigned postcards which sent subversive dadaist messages to soldiers on the front. He also recreated himself, changing his name to John Heartfield during this time.

Heartfield and other Dadaists attacked capitalism, nationalism and other fashionable art groups, especially expressionism.

He developed what started as a political joke into a conscious artistic technique which takes a familiar icon and turns it into something new.

The invention of the lightweight camera meant that photo’s became commonplace and is considered a key invRare John Heartfield photo in Paris, 1935ention.

As Hitlers triumph drew closer, Heartfield’s work ended it’s definitive phase, moving from class conflict to attack the Nazi’s through manipulation of their own propaganda.

The Nazi’s were the first to benefit from and use mass media to put their messages across. For the first time people could reach hundreds of thousands of people via film, mass demonstration and radio. They had a wider audience than any political party had ever had before.

Heartfield’s work was brought to Germany and distributed in secret. Because of a need to And Yet It Moves by John Heartfieldput the messages across in a short span of time he refined and sharpened his messages and technique to reflect this need.

Heartfield’s photo-montages were produced in small printshops, often at the risk of life ad then given, often, to young children to distribute around the area. Small stickers were also used and stuck to things like walls. This method was considered highly successful, the children never being caught.

Heartfield also used humour as a weapon in his work, using visual wit to reveal the truth behind the official story.

Humour sharpened to viciously satirical point was to become characteristic of political photo-montage.

Each time Hitler staged a media event, Heartfield came back with his own version.

At this point in time, print, as the main channel of communication was already giving way to moving image.

The censorship of anti-Nazi montages from a Heartfield exhibition provoked international outcry.

Germany put pressure on the Czech government to have them sent Heartfield back to Germany. Instead he ran again, this time to England. There he and some others working with him tried to give the British public an idea of what was really happening in Germany, discovering that many, even during the war, were ignorant to the horror and persecution faced by Jews, Gypsies and anti-Nazi’s in particular.

He later became a professor in the East Berlin Academy of Arts.

Many others have followed in his footsteps, echoing the technique he used though with differing themes.

“The important man is not the artist but the businessman who in the market place and on the battlefield holds the reins in his hands.” – John Heartfield

John Heartfield Photomonteur 1912

Information sourced from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTSOEDCLAJk&list=PLZb5QFBMWHl6RMo22W_fGHGd7q9ARGjbb&index=1

Images sourced from: http://www.johnheartfield.com/John-Heartfield-Exhibition/#

January 3rd – Anti-Art

WWI was the first fully mechanized war brought about by the industrialization of mass warfare. Many thought it was irrational or mad and, with Switzerland being a neutral country, many artists moved there. From there the Dadaists were born, artists seeking refuge and trying to draw attention to their art.

Dadaism quickly spread internationally and lots of publications were produced and distributed, aided by the internationalism of the movement.

Cubists attempted to take apart conventional ways of object representation by disrupting perspective. They also integrated part of the real world into the work by including things like cloth or paper, giving a 3D aspect.

Photomontage was used by the Paris Commune for propaganda in 1871 and by WWI it was a common technique employed to scare enemy troops and comfort home ones.

John Heartfelt was the most effective dada artist to employ photomontage as critical or satirical weapon against Nazi’s.

Surrealism techniques are often more interesting than the art. The artists attempt to access the unconscious mind by breaking away from what is representational.

Surrealism is described as:

“Chance encounter of an umbrella and a sowing machine on a surgeon’s table.”

Marcel Duchamp was a conceptual artist who made “readymades” by taking existing objects and claiming them to be art, thereby making him an artist. He was more interested in ideas of conceptual art than the physical artwork. This can be seen as anti-art.

Many Dadaists produced illustrative work for journals / magazines / book covers / manifestos etc using collage, montage and photo manipulation.